RIAT 2022 - Eastern Europe

21/07/2022

Czech Republic

The Czech Republic Air Force came to England with some awesome aircraft, including some aircraft that were making their first visit and others that would be making their last. 

One aircraft that is always a treat to see is the L-159 Alca, so it was great to hear that the Czech Republic intended on sending one, albeit in the static display. Caslav Air Base is home to all 16 L-159A Alcas, operated by the 212th Tactical Squadron. The Alcas are infrequent visitors to the show, with the last appearance being in 2017 when 2 performed a role demo and 1 specially painted aircraft sat in the static display. 

The Czechs also came along with 3 incredibly cool and rare helicopters in the form of one Mil Mi-35 Hind, one Mil Mi-171 Hip, and one W-3A Sokol. Visitors to the show were treated to flying displays by all 3 choppers, which was a very nice surprise. What was an even nicer surprise, though, was the fact that the Hind and Hip would be performing a Combat Search and Rescue demo, showcasing what these aircraft do during operations. The demo gave ample opportunity for unique photos as the aircraft made passes of one another, breaking off of a formation and, at one point, having a standoff at the crowd center! Being able to see them in action was an awesome experience. 2022, however, will be the last time that a Czech Hind will be seen at an Air Tattoo, as they are retiring from service, or may have now been retired. The Czech Republic has donated them to Ukraine. 

As I said, we were also lucky enough to see the UK debut of the PZL W-3A Sokol, which performed in the flying display. This agile little choppers demo included a fast rope demonstration, which gave spectators an opportunity to see a crew member dangle from a rope whilst the pilots took the aircraft from one side of the base to the other. I bet being slung underneath a helicopter is an experience and a half! The Czech Republic operates 11 Sokols, with some painted in the camo scheme (as seen below) and others in a red and white scheme. The aircraft are used for both military transport and emergency medical services. 

The support aircraft for all of this Czech hardware was a CASA C-295M, seen here departing the show on Monday departures day. The aircraft had arrived early that day. The Czech Republic operates 4 C-295Ms with the 242nd Transport Squadron out of Prague-Kbely. Another first for me, and another C-295 I'm happy to have caught, especially in the Czechs appealing camo scheme, 

Hungary

Hungary is one nation you can usually count on to confirm their attendance and then cancel, but not in 2022! They attended 2022 with some awesome aircraft rarely seen in the UK. 


First up was a pair of Mil Mi-24P Hind helicopters, operated by the 86th Helicopter Wing at Szolnok Air Base. These choppers look so incredibly cool, and, at the right angle, so incredibly menacing! Believe me when I say you wouldn't want to find yourself up against one. The black scheme worn by the aircraft looks very cool and is something different from the very standard grey scheme that most military aircraft wear now. 1 aircraft flew a very entertaining display to the crowds during the show whilst another was placed into the static park alongside helicopters from various other nations. I really enjoyed seeing the Hinds from 2 different Eastern European nations in 2022,  long may it continue!

Hungary also sent 2 of their 14-strong fleet of SAAB Gripen aircraft, operated by the 59th Tactical Fighter Wing 'Pumas' out of Kecskemet Air Base. We were lucky enough to be treated to a flying display by one aircraft, including the infamous 'dump and burn', causing a flame to appear behind the jet. Naturally, I missed this photo opportunity on both Saturday and Sunday due to my severe lack of reaction skills! I distinctly remember watching the aircraft through the viewfinder on my camera, then watching the flame quickly appear and disappear. It was great to watch, nonetheless. I quite fancy a second chance so if they could return this year that would be great! The 2nd Gripen sent by Hungary featured tail art of a Puma, it's always nice to have specially marked aircraft at the show!

The NATO Strategic Air Command based in Papa, Hungary, came to the show with 1 of their 3 C-17s, operated by the Heavy Airlift Wing. In recent years these aircraft have become more frequent visitors to the show, but that certainly isn't a complaint! These beasts are always well received in the static display and the crews are always really friendly! They often open the aircraft up and give you a chance to walk through the cargo hold, which is always greatly appreciated and gives a sense of the size of the aircraft and what it's capable of transporting. 

A Hungarian Air Force Airbus A319 was also seen on departure day picking up crews and equipment for the Hungarian aircraft at the show. The Hungarian Air Force bought 2 A319s from Air Berlin in 2017. Both aircraft fly out of Kecskemet Air Base. 


Romania


Making a very welcome appearance in the static display was the Romanian Air Force with an Antonov AN-30 Clank. Originally operating 3 Clanks, the Romanians now operate just 2 with Escadrilla 902 out of Henry Coanda International Airport, Bucharest. These 2 aircraft fly as part of the Open Skies Treaty, which allows participating nations to fly unarmed aircraft over each other to prevent misunderstandings and make sure that one country isn't about to go to war with another. This was the first AN-30 I had seen, and what a cool aircraft it is! Yet another aircraft that I'd be happy to see back on the ground at Fairford during another Air Tattoo.